Tuesday, February 10, 2015

THE RUNNING SUMMIT and 2015 Outlook

THE RUNNING SUMMIT EAST - Distance Coaching Clinic

2014 was a crazy busy year for me in many respects, all good, but finally I can see some light and am redirecting my energies back to the running world.  I just returned from a quick trip to New Jersey, driving 6 hours in the snow. Not my favorite place to go but definitely a worthwhile trip.  I attended a running conference featuring some of the top coaches and authors from the sport of running sharing their expertise.  In my coaching of runners I want to be able to provide the best advice I can.  I have a lot of practical experience myself and often look at myself as a human guinea pig and I've been to other conferences and certifications as well.  I'm always looking for ways to better train my athletes.  The Running Summit East had some great discussions on the best way to train whether you're an elite or a recreational runner.  The speakers provided real data based on tons of research and got into topics like more effective training sessions including high intensity training, how to eat like an elite and the newest data on hydration.  We also had a hands on application of the principles of efficient running which was a lot of fun getting to run and then analyze each other's running.  My group really enjoyed ripping my running apart.  This was followed up with a session of core sequences including yoga to maximize the full power of your body for better running.

Now I get to put these new techniques and practices to use with my running clients and with my own running.


British Columbia

I'm now starting to look forward to the 2015 racing season for myself.  With no luck getting into Hardrock or UTMB I found an awesome race in British Columbia, The Fat Dog 120.  A point to point race of 120 miles with over 28,000 feet of climbing in some of the most scenic areas of Canada.  Noted as one of the toughest Ultra races in the world by Outside Magazine, it's BC's answer to Hardrock without all the hype.  Sounds like my kind of race :)

Fat Dog 120

I'm also getting pressure from the better half to run the Javelina 100 in Arizona.  It's a loop course of 15 miles, not my favorite but have never run this and it may be a group trip:)   We'll see.

Javelina Jundred
Now to fill in with some other races along the way.

Happy Trails,


Monday, January 5, 2015



The year has come and gone.  It's been a very busy year, all good, but I just didn't have the time to get in one 100 miler this year so with a few days left in the year and the only opportunity available I took advantage of the situation.  Our holiday guests left at around 9 or 10 am so I figured I could get my act together and be out the door by noon for a 100 mile run about.  It was Saturday December 28th and with Kristin home, I didn't have to worry about entertaining the dogs either.  Quickly I came up with 4 different loops originating from home which would be my main aid station.  Other than that, I would carry the credit card with me for emergencies for the one loop into town (Burlington).  The rest of the route would be on the back rolling hills of Charlotte, Hinesburg, Monkton and Ferrisburg.

I laid out clothing for changing between loops and a variety of packs to use.  Temps were unseasonably warm, high 30's and low 40's but with a steady wind out of the south.  A change of clothes would be nice to prevent any hypothermia after sweating.  And I chose to wear shorts as it would certainly be too warm for tights. Over heating for me is like blowing a thermostat so I wanted to avoid that.  I set up some snacks at the aid station (dining room table) and Kristin added some awesome goodies to the mix.

I gave Kristin a quick look at my proposed plan and opted to not even carry a phone as I would never be more than 15 miles from home and just didn't want to bother with it either.  Kristin planned on running part of the first loop with me to see me off and then the final loop with me Sunday morning if all went well.

Ready to head out, just need the Pearls on my feet.

So noon came and for once I was ready and almost on time as we headed out the door.  We both struggled a bit as the first 2 1/2 miles is pretty much all uphill and we were sweating out and peeing out all the alcohol and food we consumed over the holidays.  At mile 5 Kristin turned around and headed home saying her goodbyes sending me off on my Holiday Adventure.

The first loop was a rolling country loop of mostly dirt roads.  With all the warm temps, it was full on mud season.  I was wearing the Pearl Izumi N2 road shoe as there was no snow or ice to deal with.  Typically in the winter I'll wear a trail shoe for added traction but that was not needed.  First major obstacle would be the dual German Shepherds over in Hinesburg.  The house has the "Deliverance" look about it but the dogs are even scarier.  They like to come up from behind looking for a meal.  About a mile before I was prepared for those varmints, I was approaching the crest of a hill and could see ears looking towards me.  Never seen a dog there before but as I got closer I could see it was definitely waiting for me.  I quickly found a stick and continued forward.  The  stick only got him more excited and he started coming at me but as I looked he had more of a smile than a sneer and only wanted to play fetch so we did as I got him back home that way.  As I got closer to the Shepherd home I found a better stick and also a 10 lb rock for protection.  I must have looked rather silly running with a rock and a stick but better to be prepared than not.  I quietly ran up and by and snuck through without causing any interaction, this was good and I was most relieved:)

So on I went into the head wind into Monkton and Ferrisburg.  The roads were so soft that it felt like you were running on squishy marshmallows and it was difficult at times to maintain a good stride.  And it was tiring.  What I discovered at about mile 20 was that I was tired from not sleeping much for 3 nights and was hungry and didn't have enough food with me.  But only 6 more miles and I could refuel.  Not a big deal.

I finally made it home at mile 26 and 4 hours into it and the aid station looked wonderful thanks to my lovely wife Kristin.

Home Aid Station

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some coke and a pickle which was awesome.  I picked at a few more things and changed out of some sweaty clothes.  I took my time as there was no one else running so there was no need to hurry.  I decided to change my shoes too into the Pearl Izumi H3 road shoes as the next loop for 30+ miles I would be heading into Burlington to see the Xmas lights and running mostly on asphalt and concrete.  The H3 has the most cushion and support which was definitely the right choice :)  So after about a 30 minute break I was out the door again into the darkness with headlamp on.

Thr run into town was somewhat effortless, nice and easy and with the wind at my back.  I was also all fueled up so was feeling good again.  That first loop really toasted me and I was ready to quit and wasn't feeling motivated but Kristin would have no part of that.  For this Burlington loop I had grabbed a sport drink which I will not name.  I had tried it in the past and it made me nauseous then but with many other runners having good success I thought I might try it again.  Well, every sip was a struggle but I knew I needed to drink and so I did.  I ran the back roads into Shelburne then RT 7 north since it had a sidewalk and I really didn't feel safe running at night on Spear or Dorset St.   But I did venture off and run on the SB rec path up and around UVM to get off the beaten path.  From there I headed into the old North End and all around seeing the festive holiday lights making my way to Church St.

Church Street, Burlington, VT

Church St. was buzzing with holiday folks and all the stores and restaurants lit up.  For me it was mile 44 and I was getting hungry again.  I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the pack but I wanted something different. So I stopped at Ken's Pizza for a slice and a coke.  It was the BEST! And it probably fueled me for a good 10 miles before I was even hungry again.  I also picked up some Gatorade at Ken's.  It seemed better at the time than that other drink and I could at least get it down.   

Food of Champions

Heading from Burlington towards Charlotte the wind was starting to crank out of the south and right in my face and it seemed to be getting stronger each mile.  Trying to avoid the direct in your face wind I took some alternative side routes going more east and west to break it up.  It would add miles but that was ok as it would be less miles needed on one of the other loops.  These alternative routes were good for a while but soon enough I was running into a dead on wind again.  By the time I reached Shelburne Village the wind was really gusting.  There was no way to avoid it either.  I decided to run on Mt. Philo Road which became a wind tunnel at times.  Luckily it wasn't frigid out and was bearable even though it would knock me sideways at times with the gusts. Finally I was home and squeaked out 34 miles on this loop so was now at 60 miles, only 40 to go!

Mile 60 Aid Station

Another relaxing break at the home base aid station.  Shoes off, change of clothes, eat and chill out for a bit, more like 30 minutes.  Nice thing about using the home for aid stations, heat, bathrooms, a refrigerator and slippers!

For the next loop I decided to change it up.  I had built up some extra mileage and wanted to avoid some of that screaming wind so I decided to stay lower and run the west side of Charlotte.  I had originally mapped out a loop to Hinesburg with a lot of north to south running but this would be better.  So off I went.  I grabbed another bottle of that awful drink figuring it had electrolytes and calories which would be good.  Off I went....about a quarter mile down the road I realized I forgot the hand held water bottle.  Not good so back home and out the door again, this time with the hand held.  Originally I was using a pack and had the water bottles in it but wasn't using a bladder and had a difficult time grabbing the water bottle out so decided a hand held would be more efficient.  I ran all the usual east Charlotte Roads and did an out and back with some variations thrown in and some hills to change it up as the east side is relatively flat.  Not a very exciting loop although I had to go by the "mountain lion" section twice but didn't see any eyes following me which was good.  There have been numerous sightings of a large 90-110 lb cat in this area.  How would one fight off such a large critter especially if it came up from behind?  Luckily it was a quiet night with a few sprinkles of rain here and there.  Hopefully the rain would hold off too.  By 4:01 am I was back at home, now at mile 82.  When I started on Saturday I had predicted arrival times at the house and figured I would be home at this point at 4:00 am, only off by 1 minute.

Kristin and Jen would be joining me for the last loop of 18 miles but Kristin somehow thought my times were off and I wouldn't be back until 5:00 am so I had to wait a bit for Jen to arrive and for Kristin to get ready.  That was fine as I was in no hurry and could sit back and relax with puppies and in my slippers:)

Mile 82 Aid Station with Charlotte

I had a quick look at the weather and we were in big hole surrounded by rain which was coming quickly.  I decided to put on the light tights as we would be heading back to East Charlotte and have a 3 mile section head on into the wind.  Running in shorts in that would not be fun, especially if it was raining.  Waiting for the girls I was eating another peanut butter and jelly sandwich and coke when all of a sudden I was not feeling so good.  All of that "special drink" mixed together with Gatorade was coming to a head and I went running outside as Jen was arriving.  Yes, purged big and got rid of all of that belly sitting fluid.  Kristin came out with the camera to get pics as she thought it would be nice to document the run, what a nice wife.  Luckily I was done by then and was feeling much better.  I was able to nibble on some food after all that wrenching which was a good thing.  After almost an hour break I was out the door with Kristin and Jen for the final loop.

Final loop with Kristin and Jen

Heading out it was starting to rain a bit so I had put on the raincoat too.  The first 2 1/2 miles is all uphill so of course I was overheating in the rain coat and tights so I took off the coat as the rain let up.  And I was tired.  I was doing a fair amount of walk/run, walk/run.  As soon as we hit Guinea Road the wind was right in our face again so back on with the raincoat to prevent any hypothermia and kept it on for the next 3 miles.  After that it was off again as we were no longer battling the wind.  I wasn't feeling the best, the legs felt fine but the belly ached a little.  It would come and go and I was able to nibble on some food.  My running was good in spurts then I would just slow down and walk for a while.  This loop had us in part of Ferrisburgh and Monkton before returning to Charlotte.  More squishy dirt roads and luckily the rain was holding off.  Finally back onto Guinea Road for the last leg with the wind at our backs and only 5 1/2 miles to go!  I was starting to feel energized and wanted to be done so I starting to pick up the pace a bit making the girls work.  Nothing like some speed work at mile 95 :)  The final 2 miles are all downhill, add in a quick loop around the train station as we were .30 miles short and I was done.  20 hours and 47 minutes from when I started.

And so it goes, finally a 100 miler to end the year.  Thanks Kristin and Jen for that final loop!!

2014 RECAP

Running for me was not top priority this year as I was just too busy with the house, wedding, new puppy, etc but it was all good.  I still ran every day but ran the fewest miles since 2005.  Only about 3,700 miles for the year.  But my 8 1/2 year streak continues.  I'm just over 35,000 miles for that streak.

The second half of the year was as busy as the first but I ran all the trail races at Catamount and mountain bike raced most of the races too.  And I ran with dogs which was all new for me.  Pippa and I took top honors for the men at the Catamount Canine Crossing 5K.

Pippa and Jack at Catamount

And little puppy Charlotte is becoming an awesome running dog.

Charlotte on Snake Mtn.

I ran the VT 50 mile in September only to realize I was not trained for the heat at all and found myself lying on my back at times rolling around in pain from full on double leg cramps.  I did crew and pace for Kristin at the VT100 and she had an awesome race setting a new 100 mile PR for herself.

Kristin at VT100

Jay Peak Trail Festival in August, I ran two 5k mountain races, placing second and first.

Jack crossing the finish line at Jay

I ran nearly 29 miles at the Run Your Can Off Event this year in November, fewer than usual but I had puppy duty:)

Jack and Charlotte at RYCO

Kristin and I ran the Southbury CT  5K Turkey trot with nearly 2000 runners, both winning our age groups which was fun.  And of course Kristin set another PR for herself.

Southbury Turkey Trot 5K
And of course we ran the Santa 5K race in Burlington in December.  Definitely not a PR for either one but I came in as 3rd male santa and Kristin had a fun run with Braxton.

The house is still consuming a lot of time but it's getting there.  Next up, finishing the upstairs.

Home Sweet Home
I guess it was a busy year.

For 2015 I'm looking forward to another fun year with friends, family, puppies and my wife Kristin :) And some more epic races along with working with Pearl Izumi and coaching other runners.  See you on the trails!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, July 24, 2014



OK, I've been really bad about keeping up with the Blog this year but I've been so wicked busy that I rarely have time to sit down for any length of time.  But finally, things have somewhat calmed down or have come to a state of well being and normal craziness.

Not a lot of time to really race this year but have had the opportunity to throw down a few races for training.

January 2014:  Went on a last minute trip to visit with John in Arizona.  John so happens to have a house there and was there during January and with a free plane ticket this was a no brainer to break away from Vermont to run in shorts mid winter.

John Lacroix training in the hills of Arizona.

COLD WATER RUMBLE 50K:  Somewhere west of Phoenix.  Left Burlington VT at 13 below zero on a Thursday morning.  Flight disaster getting there as usual.  Thanks United!!  Instead of arriving before noon, arrived near 9 pm.  Did manage to get some run time in at the Houston airport as I was stranded there for hours.  They have a great carpeted 1 mile run in the basement where you can do speedwork racing the trains.

Racing in the desert

Saturday morning race starting at 8:00 AM.
For once in my life I was smart and only signed up for the 50K.  Not much training and no heat training.  It quickly warmed up to near 80 degrees in the sun and running in a desert with absolutely no shade among the cacti plants and sand.  I was good for about 20 miles before dehydration and cramping kicked in.  So I had to back it off.  And took a wicked crash at about mile 27 landing on some hard dirt and rock.

Finished!  and totally dehydrated.

Limped it in to a 4th place overall finish.  Was still nice to visit with John and leave the VT winter temporarily.  Bret Sarnquist, formerly a running friend from VT who now resides in Arizona took top honors.  Way to go Bret!!

Bret on course and first to finish the 50K

SLEEPY HOLLOW MOUNTAIN RACE, May 4, 2014.  This was a short 10k mountain race, up and down, up and down at Sleepy Hollow XC Center in Huntington, VT.  Close to home and I was around so I figured why not and a good tune up for Quadrock the next weekend.  Race conditions were full on mud and it was a blast.  I think I ran with a smile the whole time, jumping in and through huge mud holes.  Won some maple syrup too:)

QUADROCK 50 MILER, May 10, 2014 near Fort Collins, CO.  Another last minute thought.  I had to be just outside of Boulder for the Pearl Izumi National Sales Meeting and so happened to find a race near by just days before the meeting.

Pre-race ritual with Mike Weigand
Again, minimal training and no altitude training.  But who needs altitude training as the course barely got up over 7,000 feet with 11,575 feet of vertical gain.  As it turned out, I realized I had been training at 150-250 feet in elevation all winter with no trips even to Mansfield at 4395 feet.  I ran out fast with all the other youngins and by mile 2 was seriously overheated and sucking wind bad.  I pulled over to regroup, delayer and let the heart rate simmer down a bit.  Then I went out and ran my own race.  The course was awesome.  Lots of ups and downs, steep climbing switchbacks, great views and a well run race.  This was a 2 lapper.  You run it one way, come in and then go out and run it in reverse.  It got warm enough during most of the race to get somewhat dehydrated and have some cramping issues but near the end the weather changed and temps were dropping with some drizzle.  I think I finished with a new PW for a 50 miler.  (Personal Worst as opposed to PB, Personal Best).  Still had a lot of fun.

Post race celebration with Kristin Lundy, Julia Lewis and Shannon Price.

KEYBANK VERMONT CITY MARATHON, Burlington, VT., May 21, 2014.  As has been the case for the last 4 or so years, I have the position of Pace Team Coordinator.  I recruit, organize and manage 18 awesome runners who will run at specific pace times to get runners in at a certain goal time.  As the coordinator I have no specific group but am there as a reserve if a pacer has last minute issues and can't run. If all show up at the start line, I can run the race but if not, I fill in as a pacer.  This year again I was blessed with great pacers who did show up so once I got them together and in the corrals I headed to the start line to run.  And as usual as I'm heading over to the start line the National Anthem plays.  Then it's a quick dash to the start line, turn around and race.  Not much time to think about it.  I saw Tony on the line and he asked if I was running 6:15 pace so we could run together.  Not happening....Two weeks earlier I ran the Quadrock 50, did minimal speed work here and there so my goal was survival and to actually go slower than usual so I could hopefully come in under 3:00.  That time is an aging time frame that I'm deathly afraid of.  I've been running sub 3 marathons consistently at VCM since 2004.  My fear is that if I can't do a sub 3 then I'm really getting old and going down that other path.  Some day it will happen but until then I run in fear.  I went out much slower than usual, just as planned trying to run a more even pace throughout and had one of the slower half's ever in a marathon, all good.  Felt good going up Battery Hill.

Then something happened, by mile 16 the wheels just fell off completely.  Everything hurt from my head to my feet and the legs were totally dead.  I went from a 6:30-6:45 pace to more of a 7:30 pace.  I tried running backwards, sideways, stretching and nothing helped.  I ran though the neighborhoods looking at my watch thinking I'm done, I've hit the old age wall and this is it.  By around mile 18 I finally conceded that I had gone over the edge and was on the downward cycle and was trying to accept that....I figured I was so slow I could just wait for one of the pace groups and run in with them.  By mile 19 I was struggling physically and mentally with this whole thing and decided I wasn't ready to accept being old yet.  I made a plan that at mile 20 I would kick it in and if all went well might get in just under 3 if I could get back to a 6:45 pace for the last 6 miles.  I kept my slow slogging going, downed a gel with caffeine, had a drink and as soon I hit that mile 20 I took off.  I was running scared but knew what I had to do.  I started passing others who had passed me in my 6 mile death march and was actually feeling good.
Brand New out of the box for the race, the new Pearl Izumi N0 racing flat.  Awesome shoe!!
 All those aches and pains were gone and I was cruising again.  I ended up passing 12 runners during the last 6 miles.  I crossed the finish line in 2:58:22, escaped another year of "Father Time".  It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Another victory over Father Time :)
Now that the marathon was over I had 3 weeks to finish projects around the new house for the "family wedding" in June to be held at our new home.  Biggest concern was getting in the lawn which was still a mudpit a few weeks earlier. And I decided to build a mudroom addition for the dogs 2 weeks before the wedding.  In the end it all somehow happened and now I'm officially married to Kristin Lundy :)

For our honeymoon we decided to have some fun and go for a jump.

The happy couple about to head out the door.

Jack having fun at 12,500 feet

Kristin with big smiles

Here's the house, projects are still underway but the pressure is slightly off so maybe I can train for the fall season ahead.  Need to find a fun 100 miler in Oct./November and some other shorter races leading up to it.

Still a work in progress.

Oh, and the newest addition to the family, Charlotte.  Will she be a running dog??


Look for some race reports coming soon when I 
figure out what I'm racing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Courmayeur, Italy  September 2013

Finally some time to put a race report together.  Let’s see what I can remember.  An 8 hour delay flying last weekend as I headed off to a race in Arizona  gives a wonderful opportunity to catch up.  Upon return to the states after the Tor I was overwhelmed with work as I got immediately thrown into XC season with the high school team, worked on plans to build a house, did site work on the lot to prepare for the home and was and still am the general contractor, working on the new house which was delivered from Huntington Homes on December 10, 2014.  With a toilet in place, Kristin and I moved in on Christmas Eve.  Still plenty to do but we'll get there.


The Tor des Géants is the first and only race to combine long distance with the individual style of runners: the organization does not impose any compulsory stages, and the winner will be the runner who completes the race in the shortest time, making his or her own decisions on when and how long to stop for rest and refreshment.  The Tor des Géants is the first race of this kind to cover an entire region, running along its spectacular paths at the foot of the highest Four-Thousanders in the Alps and through the Gran Paradiso Natural Park and the Mont Avic Regional Park. The start and the finish are in Courmayeur. The total length of the race is 336 km which must be completed with a maximum time of 150 hours. The race includes several stretches at high altitude, including 25 mountain passes over 2000 meters, 30 alpine lakes and 2 natural parks. The minimum altitude is 300 m and the highest is 3300 m. The total elevation gain is about 24000 m.  The conditions can be very difficult (running in the dark, wind, cold, rain or snow). Proper training and a real ability to be self-sufficient are essential for successfully completing this individual adventure. 

Tor Des Geants Race Report 2013

Alpine Meadows

The Tor Des Geants turned out to be an experience of a lifetime.  It was everything I thought it would be and then some.  From the very start it created challenges and never let up.  The night prior to the race the weather report was looking rather dismal, rain and more rain.  The race didn't start until 10:00 AM which allowed for a normal night of sleep.  Except all I could hear was the pouring rain which made for a restless night.  As dawn broke the rain let up.  Overcast skies would be great!  After breakfast Kristin and I got our gear together, dressed for the worst and headed out to the start which is right in the middle of Courmayeur.  No sooner did we get almost to the finish line and the rain started again.  It was just miserable, 50 degrees and rain.  As we waiting in line to get scanned before you could even get in the start coral, you could already feel the moisture on your skin.  

The Start Line

It was almost start time so if we started to move, at least that would be better than just standing there getting wet.  No such luck.  10:00 am was the start of the festivities which included anthems and other Italian songs to which we sang for a good 30 minutes.  Finally we were off!!  I decided to start the race with Kristin, more in the back of the pack instead of making my way up near the start line like I did at UTMB.  She was feeling a bit nervous and had never seen mountains like this.  Plus this was also our honeymoon.  Yes we got married days before getting on the plane to Italy.  So I thought I should at least spend a little time with my new wife :)  

The start was slow but manageable, packed in with over 700 runners in the pouring rain on the narrow streets of Courmayeur.  We meandered through town a bit, crossed the road and through more narrow streets going through puddles already, so much for keeping the feet dry.  After a mile or so we finally hit the trails.  And then we stopped.  700+ runners all hitting a steep single track trail together doesn't work much for keeping any forward momentum.  Soon we were moving at a snail’s pace.  

Wow I thought, this is going to be a long, slow race or rather event.  We continued in this conga line for quite some time.  At one point I thought I might have the opportunity to gain some ground and start passing other runners.  I said my goodbyes to Kristin, telling her I would see her later that week, so much for the honeymoon.  But we would have a week after the race to relax and enjoy Italy together.  And off I went passing one by one, for about a minute, then the congo line again with tight single track.  So it was, it was not to be a fast pace and maybe the forced slow pace would be good in the end.  I was a bit nervous myself about the race being over 200 miles in the Alps of Italy.  It seemed like forever but bits and pieces of the trail  finally widened so you could pass but the steepness really prevented you from accelerating.  

So off we all were heading to be the first mountain pass.  The course included many opportunities for you to climb over summits of 8000, 9000 and 10000+ feet.  It was hard to communicate with many of the runners as there definitely was a language barrier.  I do not understand most of the Italian language and most of the European runners didn't understand English either.  At one point I did find some other runners trying to pass others runners as well.  They didn't have the usual European gear either and found out that they were from Colorado.  It was Missy and Brett Gosney.  There were just a handful of Americans there and we really stuck out with our Yankee gear.  

Missy and Brett

We chatted a bit and went back and forth on the course trying to move ahead.  At this point the rain had stopped and the scenery was starting to open up a bit.  It was still cloudy but the mountains were emerging and they were magnificent even with streams flowing from the rains earlier.  

From this point on I don’t recall every step and mile so I’ll just get into some of highlights.   The course was broken down into 7 sections of approximately 50K each.  At each 50K was a major “life station” that provided ample food along with cots to sleep on for as long as you wanted, provided you were ahead of the cut offs.  You had one drop bag that was transported around to each of the life stations.  We all had the same size bag too which was a medium sized duffle bag.  

Drop Bags

In the drop bag you had to make sure you had enough provisions to get you though up to 6 days in the mountains.  So dry clothes, winter gear, extra shoes and socks, etc .  You also were required to keep provisions with you in a pack and for good reason as the life stations did not come too quickly.  You might think of 50K as a short distance to go as in a typical 50K race in the states where maybe you can cover it in 4-6 hours.  To give you an idea, the first 100K at the Tor took 27 hours.   In addition to the life stations, there were rustic mountain huts along the way and village establishments where you could find food and possibly a place to sleep for an hour or two.  After two hours they would wake you up and kick you out as there wasn't a lot of space and other runners might be in need of a nap.  And many were so noisy that you just couldn't sleep.

Cows were a common scene on the course as were cow patties.

Day one had the challenges of starting in the pouring rain, then the rain stopped for a while only to have the afternoon with more rain, lightening and hail.  The steeps were incredibly steep and finally I broke out the sticks (trekking poles).  Never having used them before except for a few short training runs, they were a big help in ascending some of the extremely steep terrain.  But more importantly, they were almost essential on the descents for braking.  Much of the trail had steep and windy single track with a loose gravel surface.  Without a braking mechanism, you would slide right off the trail.  And I did witness one guy in front of me who went over the bank.  Luckily for him he stopped after about 10 feet.  Somewhere on day one I also met up with an Aussie runner Matt Meckenstock.  Matt and I spent a lot of hours together at the Tor.  Matt participated in the race the previous year but had to run a shortened version of the race due to snow and unsafe conditions.  So he was back to run the full race this year.  Matt was a great wealth of knowledge as he had the experience of running most of the course already.  He also knew to ask for food and many times you had no idea they had homemade tortellini in the back or some wonderful other meal.  He also was a big help in managing sleep.

Resting before ascending de Valtroumenche.

Sleep deprivation was to happen so you had to try to minimize the effects and figure out how much and when to sleep.  As the first night set in, I’m not sure if it was not being acclimated to the altitude or being partially hypothermic from being wet for so long but I went in to an aid station and almost passed out.  I tried to get some food down thinking I was hungry but wasn't having any luck.  Every time I stood up I would get dizzy and almost fall over.  So I decided to lie down for a while.  Here you could nap for two hours at the most so without much choice I found a cot.  It was good to regroup although I never slept but had a chance to dry out some clothes in a room with a hand blower.  And with some dryer clothes and food in the belly I headed back out in the rainy evening.  On a sad note, there was one casualty on the first night.  The rains had kicked in again along with sleet, hail, thunder and lightning.  And when nighttime arrived, it was real dark in those mountains. 

A Chinese 43 year old runner (bib 1040) Yang Yuan, died from serious head injury after a fall. The accident occurred in the area of Fond du lac, under the hill of Crosatie Valgrisenche. According to what has been learned, he fell as he walked down a path made slippery by rain, about 2,650 meters above sea level. He bumped his head violently against the rocks. Our best wishes and thoughts go out to his family.

Day two provided some mental challenges.  The rains were done but now with over 24 hours of being on the trail and seeing how little you progressed, it was exhausting and almost unimaginable how you were to go for 206 miles.  If 100K took 27 hours when you were still “fresh” what would happen when you really got tired. 

Kristin on course

During the race I was able to follow Kristin on her journey.  At most of the life bases I was able to see on-line where she was and see if she was on track.  I was worried about her whereabouts on that first night as I knew she was near that fatality.  Little by little she kept going staying ahead of the cutoffs and was doing great.  Just past the midway point was one of the most challenging sections and I was happy to see her get through that but nearing the 125 mile mark she was losing time and had to make a decision to either get some sleep to avoid massive sleep deprivation or move ahead without sleep and take the chance of making some bad decisions from not being of sound mind.  She chose to stop.  She had made it through the toughest parts of the course and some of the harshest conditions but knew it was time to stop to prevent any catastrophes.  I am very proud of her accomplishments, going 125 miles on some of the toughest trails anywhere on mountains much bigger than anything she had ever experienced.  She'll be back to finish this race. 

Kristin with her trail friends from Poland

Somewhere on course I was coming to the top of the Col Loson and there stood what looked like an American hiking about.  How could I tell?  He had on US gear including Pearl Izumi running shoes.  I remembered Missy and Brett talking about a friend of theirs who would be about to help them out.  Yes it was Brendon Trimboli from Colorado who just ran the UTMB the week before. 


Brendon and I had a great chat overlooking some of the best views in the world.  He took a pic of me at the summit before I moved on.  I would see Brendon on course at various stages of the race giving some great support.

Coming out of the life base Valtournenche, photo by Brendon.

Food and sleep Management:  One of the biggest challenges I found was how to manage your eating and also your sleeping.  Without either one, you just could not continue.  I started out eating a lot of bread and cheese at every aid station.  One can only eat so much of that before you start to develop issues so I switched over to more pasta.  Not all the food was out there in view.  Pasta was everywhere but you had to know to ask for it. I had some of the best homemade tortellini out of a tent on the side of a mountain at 10,000 feet.  At another mountain aid station they had a grill going where I found the best fries and ate so much I had a hard time running for a while.

Enjoying some of the best steak frites ever at Champillon.

And there was no shortage of wine and Grappa.  After having some trouble trying to sleep that first night I found that a glass of wine with some pasta was the best combo to relax and nap for an hour or two.   Finding the right amount of sleep to maximize your energy and time management was something to learn too.  It seemed like 1-2 hour naps were far better than sleeping 3 hours as after 3 hours the body just didn't want to get up and run but 1-2 hours was just enough to recharge the body and mind.

Roman Roads:  All I can say is too many of these ancient highways along the course.  Rough, inconsistent and hard on the feet.  Sometimes would go for miles and miles.

Roman Highways along the course

Another thing I learned in Italy was a lesson in rest rooms.  After eating too much cheese it wasn't really a problem but after eating more nuts, fruit and pasta, I need to visit the bathroom.  I was at one of those smaller aid stations and found a rest room.  I walked in, looked around at a porcelain hole in the floor with what looked like traction ribs on the side.  Hmm, this was weird so I left.  I wandered around looking for a real restroom and found another one of these porcelain holes.  Then I noticed a roll of toilet paper on the wall next to the hole.  After studying that I figured it out.  I called it the stop and drop.  Never seen anything like this in America.

Stop and Drop Italian Style

The last section of the course had some less challenging sections and you almost thought that the worst was over.  That didn't last for too long as it contained some of the coldest temperatures and incredible steep climbs with cables to hold on to.  As the sun set, I slowly added layers, one by one as I climbed in elevation.  By the time I got near the summit of the last major mountain pass I had on every piece of clothing in my pack including a winter hat, mittens and hand warmers.  After that it was still a grueling descent and running through the night over alpine meadows.  

At that point you knew you were getting close to the end and wanted to sprint but still had more climbs and hours to go until the finish.  I did get a surge of energy for the last 10 miles and was passing other runners on the final descent.  I was ready for it to be over.  The final leg was running back through the streets of Courmayeur and it was quiet as it was just after midnight.  Finally after 110 hours, I was done!  Just in front of me was Pierre Mialocq from France.  We had been running together at many times throughout the race.  Even though we had a hard time understanding each other during the race, we enjoyed running together.  


In the end just over half of the field of over 700 runners finished which is pretty amazing.  The awards ceremony was held at the end of the week.  We made a lot of new friends from the Tor from all over the world.  Hopefully we'll see them again on the trail.

The Finishers of the Tor Des Geants 2013

“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”